Four Seasons Hotel Bengaluru’s Chef Leong Then talks about his journey in the culinary world, working on new creations, and the path forward.
Chef Leong Then might be the Asian Chef de Cuisine at Four Seasons Hotel Bengaluru’s Far & East today, but his tryst with the culinary arts first started when he was just a boy of 14. Even though nobody in his family had been involved in cooking, and he was rather academic minded, once he had had a taste of the possibilities, he knew it was his calling. In fact, so strongly did he feel about the industry, that he inspired two of his siblings to also become chefs.
He started learning the tricks of the trade at the kitchen of a local restaurant and went on to work as a chef at numerous restaurants across his home country of Malaysia. It was in 2008, that he joined up on his first international assignment and got on board Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai as Asian Restaurant Chef for the hotel’s signature San:Qi restaurant.
We caught up with the chef to talk about his journey, his current projects and the culinary world at large.
TD: Tell us a bit about your journey in the industry. How has it been so far?
CLT: I have worked in a few Four Seasons hotels, spanning the globe, namely Mumbai, Seychelles, Singapore and St Petersburg before moving to Bengaluru. I have learned immensely from the opening of a hotel – the thrill of the curtain rising, the teamwork, making the opening menus, etc, is an experience second to none. There are so many wonderful places in the world to see. I am grateful to have seen, absorbed and experienced many different cultures due to my craft. But everywhere I have been, the Four Seasons touch remains a constant.
TD: Tell us about what you’re working on right now. Any new ingredients, dishes or menus that you’re experimenting with?
CLT: I’ve been known to be an expert at the wok, and it is wonderful to recreate something as traditional as a Singaporean Hawker’s Market-style fried noodles. These days, we are focusing a lot on takeaways and trying to create some interesting dim sums for guests to try at home. Work is also underway on starting a Yum Cha style all-you-can eat dimsum lunch for Sunday lunches.
TD: Sustainability is a buzzword currently across most industries. What does sustainability mean for you? How do you practice this with your creations or processes?
CLT: Sustainability is a very important aspect of mindful living and we have embraced it fully during these times. The pandemic has taught us that controlling wastage is key and we are all responsible for sustainability in our own ways.
TD: With the pandemic putting a sharp focus on health, are you seeing any trends in the food industry to reflect this?
CLT: The pandemic taught us how to care for our own health and the health benefits of their food and beverage choices post 2020. Freshly made, local produce has been trending during this time.
TD: With the lockdown lifting, how has diner behaviour changed, if at all? Could we expect to see any new innovations when it comes to the dining-in experience?
CLT: Guests are savouring the experience of slowly venturing out to dine. We are blessed that our restaurants all have outdoor terraces as this will continue to be a key focus.
TD: The pandemic has impacted the F&B industry in a big way. How do you see the future for the industry shaping up?
CLT: The pandemic’s impact has been enormous on the industry and time will tell when recovery will set in fully. We have to be patient.